Microsoft have already clarified that their new console will need to be connected at least once a day to function and their new version of the Kinect will not have to be always-on, but even more concerns about privacy and connectivity have been raised with the release of their latest policies.
The company initially avoided answering questions about the new console but this only added to the speculation users and journalists had with the next-gen console. Microsoft has now had to answer those questions and it’s not all good news, especially with those concerned with the ability to play used games and operate the console without being online. Microsoft will hopefully provide some clarity during next week’s E3 conference but for now this is what we do and don’t know about the Xbone:
With regards to used games, Microsoft has said they won’t charge system-wide fees to gamers, publishers or retailers for reselling physical sales or trade-ins. Users will be able to trade-in first party Xbox-One titles at “participating retailers” and buy and play used copies. Already, this sounds incredibly fishy and could lock many retailers, online stores, eBay and independent game sellers out of the retail market. Third-party publishers will have complete control over the aforementioned practices for their titles, and may choose to disallow trade-ins, reselling or gifting games. This could mean certain publishers, such as EA, Ubisoft or Activision, could destroy any possibility of resale. Also, if they enact that control, they could charge consumers for privilege of playing that resold game. This means game rentals of almost any kind may be non-existent but Microsoft said they will be exploring the possibility of allowing it in the future.
If you let a friend borrow your copy of an Xbox One game, make sure you guys have been friends on Xbox Live for 30 days. That being said, we don’t know if there’s going to be a straightforward process to enact this, like deactivating the game from your account before giving it to a friend. In good news, every game will be available via download, as well as in stores, which could mean demos for every single title.
The console is not necessarily an “Always-On” console, but it does need to “call home” every 24 hours to ensure users have the license to play certain games. If you have been offline for more than a day, users won’t be able to play their games until a connection is re-established. Users can sign into their Live accounts on any console and access their entire game library, but if they are playing their games on a console that isn’t their own, the system must have a connection with Microsoft. At home, up to ten family members can be given access to a user’s shared game library and can even include two people playing at once.
However, we’re not sure if each game will have a unique code, like a Steam key or an online pass. Will the games be installed like they were on the PS3? Can you do it without an online connection or does it have to check the authentication before installing or playing? And what happens if it’s been exactly 24 hours and you’re in the middle of an online game? Will it lag? Will it kick you off to check? What if the Microsoft servers are hacked or are taken down for maintenance, does that mean no one can game no matter what they’re doing? Will it be a check into Microsoft’s American servers or will it be per region? What about countries without regional Microsoft support?
Do you remember the days when you could just put a disc into a console and play?
Privacy has been a huge concern this week and Microsoft doesn’t make it any better. The Kinect sensor has to always be connected to the console but is not always required to be used. When the console is off, the device will still listen for the command “Xbox On,” but it can be disabled. However, it is not confirmed whether this will disable the device when the console is off. You can disable or “pause” it which will disable the body- and voice-sensing capabilities. The setup process for the device will give users a personalization for privacy settings and how your data is used. That data can be anything from what you’re watching, what you’re playing or how you play your games. However your interactions with the Kinect will not be recorded or uploaded online, and any data the sensor might collect or detect “will not leave your Xbox One without your explicit permission.”
All of this is fairly frightening stuff from a financial and personal level, it means the idea of sharing or playing games has changed completely. While everyone else is resisting this kind of DRM, it’s odd to see Microsoft so vehemently strong for it. Their characterisation of the average gamer or consumer vastly outweighs the reality of the situation, but that’s not to say they won’t turn a profit when the console is released, but I’m worried those purchasing may not be aware of these kind of concerns until it’s too late.